North Korea reports over 200,000 ‘fever’ cases for fifth day in a row amid Covid outbreak

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North Korea has reported more than 200,000 new cases of fever for the fifth consecutive day as the country battles its first confirmed Covid-19 outbreak.

At least 219,030 people showed fever symptoms as of Friday evening, taking the total number of such cases to 2,460,640, state media reported, citing data from the emergency epidemic prevention headquarters.

The North has been using “fever” as a euphemism for Covid-19.

The death toll rose to 66, KCNA reported.

The country formally confirmed an outbreak of Covid since the coronavirus pandemic began for the first time only last week, describing it as the “gravest national emergency”.

North Korea had consistently claimed to have had zero Covid cases since 2020, when the pandemic began – a claim that was widely doubted by health experts and analysts.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un held a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party’s politburo early on Saturday to check the government’s Covid response.

Despite the rising numbers , Mr Kim reportedly appreciated “the current affirmative trend in the state emergency epidemic prevention”.

He also urged all sectors and units to “dynamically push ahead” with measures that are not shortsighted or temporary, and establish action programmes to battle the outbreak.

North Korean state media also lauded “good results” in the country’s fight against the disease, citing sustained farming and production in key industrial sectors and construction projects.

Earlier this week, Mr Kim had accused officials of inadequacies, inertia and “immaturity” as Covid cases continued to rise in the country.

The country’s 26-million population remains unvaccinated against Covid-19.

The government had earlier rejected offers of free Covid vaccines, including Sinovac, the vaccine made in China, as well as from AstraZeneca.

US president Joe Biden, who is visiting South Korea, said on Saturday that America had offered to provide coronavirus vaccines to North Korea but there had been no response from Pyongyang.

He made the remarks at a joint news conference with South Korea’s new president, Yoon Suk-yeol, following their first summit in Seoul.

Additional reporting by agencies

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